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Author: Mark W. Theisen
November 30th 2015 -      WEST BEND, WISCONSIN November 21, 2015:     The 2016 Verizon INDYCAR schedule is now official and will feature the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday May 29th as series officials announced a 16 race schedule, the same as 2015, but the season will be expanded by five weeks.

     The 2016 series will again kick off in St. Petersburg, Florida on Sunday March 13th, which is earlier than 2015 and ending in Sonoma, California on September 18th, which is later than this year and overall the series was expanded by five weeks to give teams and their crews much needed preparation between events rather than the rapid fire schedule of this year.

     Three new events are featured on this year’s slate.  Traditional tracks such as Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and Phoenix International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona return to the schedule while Boston will be the series’ first venture into the Northeast metropolitan market.

     Missing are the races at Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile; Avondale, Louisiana and Fontana, California.  Andretti Autosport’s promotional arm valiantly tried to keep the Milwaukee race on the schedule but their three year effort did not prove profitable enough for them to continue as did the Louisiana and California races that did not meet expectations in attendance and/or profitability.

     In addition to the schedule announcement INDYCAR also announced the return of their television broadcast partners, ABC and NBCSN for the 2016 season in hopes to build on their momentum of increasing viewership in each of the past two season.

     The season opens, as it has for the past five years in St. Petersburg on March 13th as the series drivers begin their quest for the Astor Cup – the trophy presented annually to the series champion, which was Scott Dixon this year.

     The next race on the schedule will be April 2nd at Phoenix.  The race marks the return of INDYCAR to the desert track for the first time since 2005 after the track had run INDYCAR races from it’s opening in 1964 through 2005.  Arie Luyendyk holds the track qualification record set in March of 1996 and after a Honda test session at the track on November 18th drivers Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe predict that this record will fall.  The track will host a full series test session on February 26 and 27th, 2016 for both Chevrolet and Honda teams to get acquainted, again, with the track and all its nuances.

      The streets of Long Beach, California will host event number 3 on April 17th.  Long the premier road and/or street course event on the schedule the 42nd running of the event will feature Dixon as the defending champion and it was this event this year that turned his season around and ultimately saw him win the title.

     Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama is race number 4 on April 24th and it was at this event this year that Josef Newgarden earned his first INDYCAR series win.

     INDYCAR then moves to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Month of May 2016 and what a month it is shaping up to be.  The third running of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is set for May 14th on the infield road course where Will Power is the defending champion.  Then all eyes will turn to the historic running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29th.  Juan Pablo Montoya is the defending champion but you can bet that all 33 drivers starting that penultimate race will be vying for the honor of winning this significantly important race.  Keep returning to this website as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will begin announcing, shortly, all the extracurricular activities that will be a prelude the 100th anniversary race.

    The only double header event on the 2016 schedule follows Indianapolis at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park near Detroit.  Saturday June 4th and Sunday June 5th feature two entirely separate races that count heavily towards the season championship.  Munoz won his first INDYCAR race this year on Saturday while Sebastien Bourdais returned to his winning ways in the series on Sunday.

     June 11th INDYCAR returns to Texas Motor Speedway where Dixon won his second race of 2015.

    Road America than plays host to the series on June 26th for the 10th race of the year,  which both track and race officials are calling the event a “homecoming” to the fabled four-mile permanent road course located in the picturesque Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin.  The track played host to INDYCAR events from 1982 through 2007 and the event is eagerly anticipated by all the drivers currently in the INDYCAR.

     “Road America and Phoenix are great venues and two of the best choices that we could have to add to the schedule,” said Dixon, who has raced on both tracks in his 15-year career.  “I ‘m looking forward to both race events.  Road America is an old-school American track that I always look forward to.  Phoenix was a fun track for me in the past.  I tested there earlier this year and the changes that they’ve made has maybe opened up a quite a few different grooves.  The racing will be very exciting at both venues, we’ll put on great shows.”

     Race number 11 is at Iowa Speedway in Newton Iowa where Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, turned his 2015 season around.  The 12th event is on the Streets of Toronto on July 17th nearly a month later that 2015 on the new schedule.  Newgarden picked up win number two last year at this event.

     Graham Rahal won at Mid-Ohio in 2015 to put him right smack in the championship battle and he returns to Lexington, Ohio on July 31str to defend his 2015 win.

     Hunter-Reay won his second race of 2015 at Pocono in the event that claimed the life of Justin Wilson.  The series returns to Pocono on August 21st for round 14.

     September 4th will be the inaugural Streets of Boston event and the series is primed for its first venture into this market.

    2016 concludes at Sonoma on September 18th where Dixon emerged as the improbable champion for 2015 after entering the race third in points behind Montoya and Rahal.   

     “Overall, the 2016 Verizon INDTYCAR series schedule is another key step forward in INDYCAR’S strategic vision,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company,  the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  “We’re confident that the momentum that INDYCAR has experienced in fan engagement over the past two seasons will continue as a result of the tireless efforts of our event promoters and our improved scheduling on ABC and NBCSN.”

    2106 is shaping up to be other exciting season in INDYCAR!

     Miles announced on November 12th that respected motorsports industry veteran Jay Frye has been named President of Competition and Operations for INDYCAR.  Frye previously served as Chief Revenue Officer for Hulman Motorsports after decades of experience leading successful NASCAR racing teams and securing industry first sponsorships.

    Frye will be responsible for all operations, competition and technical matters for INDYCAR.  He will report to Miles, who as CEO of the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will set strategy and oversee all aspects of the series.  Frye, first arrived at Hulman Motorsports after revamping Red Bull Racing into a competitive team that earned a berth in the 2009 NASCAR Chase.  He also built MB2 Motorsports from the ground up beginning with just 10 employees and ultimately reaching 200.  He won four NASCAR Cup races as a team manager.

     Frye replaces the respected but beleaguered Derrick Walker and his announcement has brought positive comments from INDYCAR team owners, Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi.

     Taking Frye’s vacated position is Rod Davis coming over to Hulman Motorsports from the Indiana Sports Corporation where nearly 100 million dollars of revenue through sponsorships are credited to him throughout his career.

     Since last report Newgarden has decided to remain at Carpenter-Fisher-Hartman Racing for 2016, the team that carried him to his first two career INDYCAR series wins in 2015.

     Munoz also announced that he is returning to Andretti Autosport for 2016.  He will again be teamed with Marco Andretti and Hunter-Reay.  The team, which ran four cars at times in 2015, is searching for funding the do that again in 2016.

     The Performance Industry Racing Trade Show returns to Indianapolis on December 10th through the 13th and with INDYCAR having a prominent display at this event this year it is expected we will have more announcements about not only driver lineups for 2016 but also the special events that will accompany all the activities leading up to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

     Keep checking back here for more updates.

     The complete INDYCAR schedule, with television networks and times, all EASTERN TIME:
Event # 1:   March 13, Streets of St. Petersburg, ABC, 12:30 p.m.
Event # 2:   April 2nd, Phoenix International Raceway, NBCSN, 8 p.m.
Event # 3:  April 17th, Streets of Long Beach, NBCSN, 4 p.m.
Event # 4:  April 24th, Barber Motorsports Park, NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Event # 5:  May 14th, Grand Prix of Indianapolis, ABC, 3:30 p.m.
Event # 6:  May 29th, Indianapolis 500, ABC, 11 a.m.
Event # 7:  June 4th, Raceway at Belle Isle Park, ABC, 3:30 p.m.
Event # 8:  June 5th, Raceway at Belle Isle Park, ABC, 3:30 p.m.
Event # 9:  June 11th, Texas Motor Speedway, NBCSN, 8 p.m.
Event #10: June 26th, Road America, NBCSN, 12:30 p.m.
Event #11: July 10th, Iowa Speedway, NBCSN, 5 p.m.
Event #12: July 17th, Streets of Toronto, NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Event #13: July 31st, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, NBCSN, 2 p.m.
Event #14: August 21st, Pocono Raceway, NBCSN, 3 p.m.
Event #15: September 4th, Streets of Boston, NBCSN, 2 p.m.
Event #16: September 18th, Sonoma Raceway, NBCSN< 7 p.m.